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Some Serious Flaws with “If I Must Sell, You Must Buy”

A very lousy pro-discrimination article entitled If I Must Sell, You Must Buy was written over at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.  It really is a poorly articulated argument if Jim Fedako genuinely intended to be advocating for free market economics.  At this point I don’t have anything against the author necessarily.  I’m sure he’s a charming fellow, but his article is something with which I take issue.

 

The Right to Discriminate in a Free Market

Considering that If I Must Sell, You Must Buy has been published on the heels of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s vetoing of the anti-gay, pro-discrimination bill that was all the buzz just a couple weeks back, I’m not going to pretend it’s just coincidence and that this is not another poorly veiled attempt to justify his desire to discriminate against non-disruptive members of a free society.  There has been a lot of that going around lately.  If I Must Sell, You Must Buy looks to be social conservatism masquerading as free market libertarianism.  Even if it isn’t (right…), it’s still a poorly constructed argument.  To call it specious would be giving it too much credit.

The Farmer’s Market

Fedako chooses the backdrop of a farmer’s market set up on a downtown sidewalk around a town square to make his argument.  It’s not the setting I would have chosen if I was going to argue his point, but maybe he likes things to be more challenging than they need to be.  Farmer’s markets and downtown festivals have been a part of my household’s livelihood for a number of years now so I’ll take it!

Farmer’s Markets are typically organized and managed by the local community, often a municipality in order to provide the local community with access to goods and fresh produce, while allowing (in the case of the article) farmers who typically reside outside the city an opportunity to make some money selling their products.  These markets are quite often part of community improvement programs.  Typically some committee empowered by a city council or some other board of an incorporated community, town or city will organize the event, obtaining the proper permits, and security required to hold it.  They are often held on public, municipal grounds for the public interest.  In the case of Fedako’s scenario this is directly “On the sidewalk surrounding a small town square.” 

Fedako describes how everyone is sizing everyone else up and sellers who are rude or “disheveled” will likely make fewer sales - and that is true.  In a free market it is the seller’s task to make his behavior and appearance pleasing to his target market (potential customers).  As Rabbi Daniel Lapin says; capitalism tends to make for a more polite society this way.

Fedako continues; “In addition, customers who come across as savvy and smart will likely realize a better bargain than those appearing new and naïve.” – That’s true too.  A buyer must beware of the seller because ambition and greed and dishonesty tend to be concentrated in situations where money and power are involved, and it’s not uncommon to be scammed by a less than ethical peddler– just as shoplifting is something for which the merchant must keep watch.

Fedako then opines “According to the current view, once the farmer opens his stall, he is required to sell to whoever approaches and offers the market price. To even suggest this may be wrong is to invite the wrath and invectives from feigned intellectuals and their sycophants.”

When you have to resort to ad hominem characterizations of your opposition in order to add weight to your argument you are already in trouble.  When I read comments like these with so little substance to back them up I immediately become suspicious of the author’s intentions and his actual intellectual acumen, and you should too.

 

A Fashion Slave with No Chains

Fedako continues “Suppose a farmer from Pittsburgh despises folks from Cleveland … he must serve folks seemingly resplendent in their Browns attire, no exceptions. However, should the farmer billboard the Steelers logo on his chest, any Browns fan spiteful of his team’s losing record could opt for the next stall — he is not forced to buy from him who is forced to sell.”

This whole “him who is forced to sell,” is really a painful non sequitur.  He is not forced to sell.  He voluntarily chose to attend the market with the intention to sell his goods in order to make money.  Why did he sign up and open for business in a public market if he didn’t want to sell his goods?  This is asinine.  It’s really an emotional appeal, you see.  He’s using emotionally charged words like “forced” in order to create an emotional reaction from the reader, hoping to bypass reason.  He also uses words like “coercion” and “slavery” in similarly inaccurate and manipulative ways later.


Free Markets in a Civil Society

Here’s the reality however; if you want to exchange your goods on a free and open market (and you can’t get much more open than a farmer’s market on a downtown sidewalk) you have to be willing to sell your goods to the first person who comes along willing and able to pay the price you have set for your goods.  To do otherwise you are getting away from free-market ideas and into the territory of market manipulation, particularly amongst a specific demographic – in this case homosexuals masquerading as Cleveland Brown’s fans.  

If you don’t like the regulations set by the organizing committee of the Farmer’s market which are often based off of a combination of national, regional and local laws (that’s federal, state, county and municipal laws for we Americans) then don’t take part in the market – don’t pay the fee and don’t show up.  That’s a function of a FREE market, too.  This is how it works in a civil society.  In a civil society like the US all free citizens’ rights to secure any (legal) goods and services available in a free and open market are protected as far as their desires, financial ability, and supply allows.  If it really is a free and open market the only thing that should affect the price of or access to the goods or services provided (aside from taxes) is the law of supply and demand, plus or minus a few clams to account for wheeling and dealing.

 

Fedako then asks “Seeing a little imbalance here?” – Yeah.  I’m seeing that somebody (often from outside the community) wants to be able to set up, peddle their wares and make money at a local public event, held on municipal property, organized by a local municipal committee, representing the interests of the citizens and tourists of that municipality while giving vendors a chance to make money, and then complains that he can’t discriminate at will against whichever members of that community he chooses.




After some nonsensical rambling devoid of any sense of civics, Fedako offers us this next gem of mental gymnastics; “To support coercion with respect to the seller without demanding the same from the buyer is to advocate for a system that thieves the property and labor of one to benefit another. However, to support completely coerced exchanges is to advocate for total state slavery.” – This statement is perhaps the most ridiculous of them all.  A person who receives fair-market price for his products in an open and public market in which he freely chose to participate, in a trade he can walk away from at any time has had nothing stolen from him.  He is not a slave simply because he is required to follow certain civil laws and regulations as to whom and under what conditions he is allowed to refuse service.  This is more of the common fallacy of emotional appeal.

 

As I mentioned above if a businesses operating openly in public is legally permitted to refuse service to any target demographic based on personal preferences we are not talking about free market economics anymore, but market manipulation that has more in common with economic sanctions.  This kind of manipulation can, will and has been used to target specific demographics in societies in the past, infringing upon the civil rights and liberties of both citizens and visitors.  This not only disrupts the free market but helps to create black market conditions amongst the targeted demographic of homosexuals in Cleveland shirts.

 

If this farmer is particularly bigoted or socially awkward around those who are different than him he is free to incorporate as a private club, create a co-op, and any other number of structures that serve only his preferred margin of society.  If it’s really about something as innocuous as disliking the attire someone wears, and it’s not just a smokescreen for opposition to something else there are mechanism to handle that.  It’s called a private property dress code.  I’m sure you’re aware of “no shirt, no shoes, no service” rules.  I’ve been refused entrance to a nightclub for wearing the wrong style of hat before.  I find it hard to believe that mister moneybags here was unaware that there are plenty of upscale restaurants that have black-tie and/or jacket dress codes.  This gives me the sneaking suspicion the author has veered into either at best a poorly thought-out argument, and at worst intellectual dishonesty.


I am in favor of free-market economics, as the title of this blog suggests.  I have plenty of respect for people who want to make a million bucks utilizing their talents or skills. What I am against is intellectual dishonesty.  I am also against social conservatism masquerading as free market libertarianism. If movements that favor Austrian economics and other free market principles allow themselves to be coopted by social conservatives they can rest assured they will become just as ineffective and virtually irrelevant as the current Republican Party has become.

Two Department of Veterans Affairs Bills, for Better and for Worse

There’s a bit of a shake up going on at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  With a disability backlog that has some vets waiting as long as three years to have their claims processed, and a veteran suicide rate amounting to 22 deaths per day, legislators are scrambling to reform the current state of veterans affairs.  Two important pieces of legislation have been proposed, intended to rectify these problems.


The H.R. 4031, the “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014”, sponsored Florida rep. Jeff Miller and sen. Marco Rubio of Florida would empower the secretary of Veterans Affairs to ensure top and mid-level employees are held accountable for mistakes and under performance.  This could address the 31 preventable deaths of veterans in at least five different VA medical centers from failure of leadership.  If Shinseki really believes the current punitive tools are sufficient to respond to the problem employees, then why is there still so much dysfunction at the VA?

Some of the complaints against this bill claim that the VA wants to attract the “best and the brightest” to work there and serve our veterans.  They are afraid the risk of being held accountable and possibly fired will result in greater talent looking elsewhere for employment.  It’s like some people just can’t comprehend how markets work.  The best and the brightest are not as worried about being held accountable since they tend to do quality work.  But with only so many employment openings in the VA, new hires have to wait for someone to be retire, be fired, or quit before they can be hired.  If a mediocre employee is allowed to retain his job regardless of subpar performance then there will be fewer opening available for the best and the brightest to have their chance to serve our veterans.


Having worked in management and as an educator I can attest that if you allow an employee or a student to gain the same reward or grade for subpar work, they will continue to perform at a subpar level.  Even the better and brighter students will slack off if they think they can get by with doing less.  It’s a basic economic truth that I see played out all around me.

On the other side  of things; watch out for senate bill 1982, sponsored by Bernie Sanders that would take $30 billion from funds supporting our troops engaged in the volatile war in Afghanistan.  It also lacks an adequate mechanism to hold the VA accountable for the quality of service they provide, or fail to provide.  With so much dysfunction at the already overwhelmed VA, it would only be exacerbated by expanding the system, and making more promises when they have not fulfilled the promises they have already made to our veterans.


Should Felons Have the Right to Vote and to Bear Arms?

It has been an issue of debate for decades, and recently it’s a hot topic once again: should felons be allowed to vote?  And what about their rights to keep and bear arms?

In most states citizens convicted of a felony lose their right to vote for a period of time.  In some states such as Florida, Iowa and Kentucky, this right is lost forever unless granted clemency that reinstates that right.  Under federal law a citizen convicted of a felony loses their 2nd Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.


I’ve heard and read the arguments from people who support these perpetual abridgements of citizens’ rights for felony convictions, and for the most part I’m simply not convinced.  To boil it down the argument seems to essentially be a matter of “they chose to commit the crime, so they can’t be trusted with these rights.”

While I am an avid supporter of the 2nd Amendment (as well as the other 9 in the Bill of Rights), I can at least see a certain amount of logic regarding the right to own and carry a gun being restricted from a person who has been convicted of a violent crime in which the perpetrator used a firearm.  Similarly restricting the right to vote of a felon may be reasonable if the citizen was convicted of something like election fraud for voting multiple times in the same election.  But the majority of felons are convicted for outlawed activity nothing like those.

Consider for a moment that laws are made and unmade by humans, and the judicial system is not infallible.   In a lot of states felonies include behavior like driving on a suspended license more than twice, and the most commonly committed felonies include possession of a controlled substance like marijuana.  And more than a few times innocent people have been convicted of felonies.


But it begs the question: if these three rights: the right to vote, the right to keep arms and the right to bear arms can so easily be abridged by committing a felony, then what other rights should be taken away when you are convicted of a crime.  This gets even more interesting if we also apply the “once convicted, can’t be trusted with that right forever” argument.

Convicted of a felony involving a church scandal: lose your 1st Amendment freedom of religion 

Convicted of fraud: lose your 1st Amendment freedom of speech

Was that fraud committed in written form and disseminated?: Lose your freedom of the press

Convicted of harboring a fugitive, or keeping some outlawed paraphernalia in your home, maybe an empty shell casing in DC: Lose your 4th Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure

Convicted of a crime on your own private property: lose your 5th Amendment right to private property

Convicted of ANYTHING: lose your 5th, 6th, & 7th Amendment rights to a fair and speedy trial by jury (Why not? You’re a criminal.  You can’t be trusted to plead your case honestly anyway … right?)




This could go on and on.  We could have all sorts of fun finding reasons to restrict your 3rd Amendment rights against boarding soldiers.

One more disturbing argument I hear comes mostly from social conservatives who are afraid that the majority of felons would vote for social liberals and economic socialists if allowed.  While I might tend to share this concern, that’s a bias that I can’t ethically support legislatively.


Many states have a treason law on the books.  Perhaps the current administration could reinstate some form of Sedition Act, thereby outlawing criticism of the government.  Then republicans, libertarians and disappointed democrats could be rounded up and charged with sedition, having their rights to vote and keep and bear arms removed.  Hey, it would be law; they would be guilty; and felons can’t be trusted right?

Tea Party Supporters are Smarter than Everyone Else

After years of being caricatured by the mainstream media as ignorant, irrational, and of all things anti-science, Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement have now been vindicated.  Yale Law professor Dan M. Kahan working on the Cultural Cognition Project has provided research that supports the conclusion that Tea Partiers on average are actually more intelligent in the most rational of subjects: scientific comprehension.

More intelligent than whom?” you might ask.  Well, than everybody.  Those proponents of small decentralized government and free market capitalism not only scored higher than their arch nemeses on the left, but they are even more astute than the mainstream of the political right.

This didn’t surprise me, but it did surprise the good professor who straightly admits his preconception that Tea Partiers were ignoramuses.

“I've got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I'd be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

 

But then again, I don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.  All my impressions come from watching cable tv -- & I don't watch Fox News very often -- and reading the "paper" (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).”

 

It looks like the professor is a good representation of the bias in those very media sources to which he subscribes.  People’s opinions are heavily influenced by the media to which they’re exposed.



 

Now with the evidence on hand that Tea Party supporters have greater comprehension of science I expect in the coming days to see the left going through mental gymnastics to try to minimize the significance of this study.  First, this story will probably be neglected in the media.  Secondly, the research methods will be attacked. 

 

The most entertaining will be watching the contortions of reason some will go through to suggest that scientific comprehension is not the best measure of intelligence, but that empathy, social intuition, diversity awareness, and a progressive vision are somehow more accurate determiners of intelligence.  Ignorance is strength, you know.



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Concerned Veterans for America: Defend Freedom Tour Coming to Pensacola

The Concerned Veterans for America Defend Freedom bus tour is coming to Pensacola Beach on October 13, 2013.

CVA is promoting honor, service to the country, economic freedom, fiscal responsibility, keeping our promises to our veterans, and action and mobilization for the betterment of our communities, our nation, and the future of our children.

The Concerned Veterans are especially excited to be examples encouraging our veterans, friends and families to be ever vigilant in continuing the fight for freedom, liberty, and independence in civilian clothes that so many of our brave men and women fought for in uniform.

The event kicks off at 1pm at the Beach Ball Pavilion on Pensacola Beach (right next to The Dock), featuring local, regional, and national speakers including highly decorated CIA officer Gary Berntsen of Jawbreaker fame and veteran of the war in Afghanistan.  Musical entertainment will be provided by local Pensacola artists Civilized Natives.  Complimentary pizza and drinks will also be provided during the event.

So come out to Pensacola Beach on October 13 for a day of patriotic celebrations and action.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Visit Concerned Veterans for America's website here.


Bar Rescue or Bar Bootcamp?

Bar Rescue, at the time of this writing is two seasons deep, and moving toward a third. Airing on Spike TV, this “reality” show is currently one of my favorites.  If you have any interest in the bar and nightclub business this series is definitely worth watching.

 

Bar Rescue stars Jon Taffer, an industry big-wig who specializes in turning failing bars into lucrative establishments. At the beginning of each episode he sends one of his helpers into the featured bar to assess just how bad off it really is. (Read More)


 

Gerard Depardieu Leaves France's Confiscatory Tax Climate

French actor Gerard Depardieu has renounced his citizenship in his native France due to the country's confiscatory tax climate for a friendlier one in ... wait for it ... RUSSIA!

An additional 300,000 wealthy French were expected to flea France's oppressive tax climate along with the actor.

Depardieu originally sought tax refuge in Belgium after the French government attempted to enforce a 75% tax on wealthy citizens, but recently Russian President Vladimir Putin granted the actor citizenship.  Russia has a flat tax of 13%.


That's right commies, higher taxes on wealthy citizens drive them and their money away. So instead of stealing the majority of the millionaire's money, France gets ... nothing.  How are they gonna pay for their pet social programs now?

I couldn't help but notice that upon the list of potential countries with a "friendlier" tax climate, the United States was NOT amongst them.  When the former communist world-power is more attractive to entrepreneurs, and millionaires than the United States, you know we're in bad shape.

 


Taxes, Unemployment, and Government Revenue

The new US jobless numbers are out today.  On top of the 23 million Americans already unemployed, today we can add another 372,000 new unemployment claims to that number.

As if that was not bad enough, the Congressional Budget Office warns that unless the government extends the Bush-era tax cuts, and cuts entitlement spending, the United States is on course for another recession by the end of 2012.  Essentially, the government needs to bring in more revenue and cut spending.

Cutting spending seems obvious enough: the less you spend; the more you keep.  Whether it’s “entitlements” or other government programs (I’m in favor of cutting congressional pay and benefits) government spending must be drastically reduced.  It is the subject of raising revenue however, that I’m going to address here because it seems a little less obvious, especially to people who are not so economically inclined.

Obama’s plan is to raise taxes, and he has no plan to affectively deal with spending.  This is disastrous policy for the United States.  Raising taxes will only serve to further cripple the US economy.  We need to keep corporate and capital gains taxes low.

That’s right; the government will bring in more money by lowering taxes.  I know it seems counterintuitive, but many of life’s best insights are.

Higher taxes represent higher costs to investment, which in turn means more financial risk to investors.  This means fewer people will be as eager to invest in business, which includes hiring employees, since there is more risk.  In general this will cause the overall incomes of all Americans to be reduced: the rich and the poor.  Wealthier business owners and investors will earn less taxable income.  Businesses will employ fewer people who would earn taxable income, with less incentive to hire more.  This will cause fewer tax dollars to be collected by the IRS, and overall government revenue will decrease.  In more severe taxing situations this even leads to capital flight, which devastates economies.

With less investment, the economy will slip into recession, bringing the American standard of living down, driving more people into poverty.  With less tax revenue, the government will also have less money to spend on relief efforts for the poor.  This is a recipe for American misery.

However, with lower taxes on business and investment there is less risk and cost to the financially ambitious, and they (we) will be more prone to make investments which overall will increase taxable incomes.  With higher rewards and fewer expenses on investment, individuals and corporations will have more money and inclination to invest in small businesses or hire more employees (whose incomes are also taxable).  Money will flow throughout society more readily as new business ventures spring up bringing more employment opportunities along with them, and paving the way for technological and economic progress.  More investment, more business, more employees equal more taxable dollars thereby creating more revenue for the government to spend on programs, “entitlements,” and relief efforts.

So, as odd as it may seem to people less economically inclined: raising taxes will mean less revenue for government, while keeping taxes low on business and investment would mean more money for government.  It really is that simple.

Ted Nugent on Poverty

Ted Nugent wrote and excellent article in the Washington Times on poverty in the United States that bluntly explains the real cause of poverty: “Poor people are poor because they make poor decisions.”  This is the sad truth that is so often ignored by those with good hearts and naïve sentiments.  Read the full article here.



Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto: A Review, Part 1

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1964, Washington Square Press, New York

Marxism is the bedrock and foundation of communism.  This tyrannical philosophy did not meet its end with the demise of the Soviet Union.  It is still very much an active threat to liberty today.  Proponents of Marxism seek to undermine capitalism at all points and they have learned to use the political system expertly to achieve their aims. What are those aims?  To centralize all authority over your life and finances in the hands of an all-powerful and uncompromising state, seeking global domination.

Marxism and communism are rooted in the essay Bourgeois and Proletarians by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, found in the Communist Manifesto, first published in 1884. 

Class Warfare

The primary theme of Marxism is class warfare.  Marx opens his essay with the bold and all-encompassing  statement that the entire history of “all hitherto existing society” [later revised to exclude traditional “native” societies] is characterized by class struggles.  In short, there is always, in all situations class antagonism between an oppressor and an oppressed.  Modern “capitalist” society, he says is no different from medieval society. Instead of titles like “lord” and “serf,” we now have a dichotomous class distinction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.  The only solution, Marx says is open and “violentrevolution.


bourgeoisie

The bourgeoisie is initially defined as “the class of modern capitalists, owners of means of social production and employers of wage-labor” (57), but is eventually revealed to also include the middle class property owner. The bourgeoisie are driven by economic and technological development.  The historical development in these areas created “industrial millionaires”—the bourgeoisie, successful business people responsible for toppling Feudalism and creating a society where technology and education are available to all. Instead of creating a more liberated society however, Marx claims the bourgeoisie have only created “new forms of oppression.”  Marx believed that Representative government only serves to manage the affairs of the bourgeoisie.

proletariat

The proletariat is defined as “the class of modern wage-laborers who, having no means of their own, are reduced to selling their labor in order to live” (57).  Marx presents the idea of an isolated working class, a people without hope of improving their lives.  Marx argues that workers are enslaved by the bourgeoisie, most especially the manufacturer.  Once the worker has been paid by his employer, “he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.” (70).

The proletariat is supposed to represent the “immense majority” who own no property and supposedly have no power or control over their lives.  Their mission in life is to enviously destroy the property and wealth of those who do.  Marx explains that as wealth becomes concentrated in fewer hands, the bourgeoisie is shrinking in number.  Those who washout of the bourgeoisie, become proletarians (since Marxist theory only allows for these two “classes”).  These washouts “boost the intellectual acumen” of the proletariat.  Marx also recognizes that the “social scum” may be absorbed into the movement as a “bribed tool.”


Luddism

The bourgeoisie constantly strive for progress, causing older, less efficient methods of production to be replaced by newer, more advance technologies. Marx denigrates this, claiming that the economic value of labor is decreased because technological advancement makes jobs easier to perform.  Marx complains that this has caused women’s labor in bourgeois society to be worth as much or more than a man’s. He decries the fact that industrialism has put people on equal economic footing despite age or sex.  He also complains that technology has caused the world to become more integrated with disparate countries now sharing in each other’s cultures.

Modern industry offers commodities at such inexpensive prices that demand is created by the people’s  desire to obtain these inexpensive goods.  With the increase in industry, the proletariat grows and becomes concentrated in greater numbers.  Due to competition in the workforce, wages fluctuate, requiring worker’s unions to develop in order to keep wages at a fixed minimum.  On occasion riots are necessary to further the proletarian cause.

Technological advancement in the traffic of information has allowed the proletariat to interact to the degree that they can now more quickly and efficiently organize themselves into a political party.  Since the bourgeoisie has created an environment in which technology and education are available to all, the proletariat must now use those benefits against them to destroy the very source of those benefits.


Violent Revolution

The ultimate goal of Marxism is violent communist revolution.  The first goal of the proletariat is to stage a successful revolution in their own countries, and then unite throughout the world in order to create a communist world order.  Marx explained that the score can only be settled when “that war breaks out into open revolution and where that violent  overthrow or the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat ” (p 77).  To accomplish this, the proletariat must first organize themselves into a class and “wrest all capital, by degrees, from the bourgeoisie,” and “centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state” (p 93, emphasis added).

Statism

In order to support and maintain this statism, Marx planned to destroy the family by replacing home education with social education (p 89), and abolishing all personal property and inheritance.  He also planned to abolish countries,  nationality and all “eternal truths,” all religion, and all morality including Freedom and Justice (p 92, emphasis added).  In order to accomplish this goal: “Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things” (p 116).

Conclusion

This is Marxism at its core: class warfare based on the politics of envy.  It looks toward an omnipotent state to manage the affairs of the people.  Marxism’s long-term goal is global communism, and the abolition of national identity.  It is anti-freedom and scoffs at ideas like justice, and  morality.  It views technological advancement as a detriment to society and ignores any concept of personal responsibility for the proletariat. This ideology is covertly and sometimes naively promoted under various liberal pseudonyms, often uncited in order to avoid the stigma of the word “Marxist.”  It is quite possibly the most dangerous philosophy at work in society today, especially for people who value freedom, independence, and justice.

The Communist Manifesto ends with these words: “Working men of all countries unite!”

Union organizer Andy Stern uses Marxist language to promote his agenda.

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